Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

Updated: October 25, 2022

$1M restoration of old sea captain’s house in Searsport almost complete

yellow building with white trim Courtesy / Captain Nickels Inn Since 2019, the owners of the Captain Nickels Inn in Searsport have invested $1 million in restoration and upgrades.

When a retired medical provider from Florida and her daughter bought a 19th-century sea captain’s home in Searsport in 2019, they knew a lot of restoration work would have to be done to bring it back as a bed-and-breakfast.

To date, they’ve invested about $1 million to tackle the interior and some of the exterior at the Captain Nickels Inn.

“It’s been a fun three years,” Dawn Gintz told Mainebiz. 

In 2019, Gintz, then a recently retired medical dosimetrist at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, bought the property at 127 East Main St. for an undisclosed sum. 

She was joined by her daughter, Cassidy Gintz, who owned a pet-sitting business before moving to Searsport. 

Owning a bed-and-breakfast was a longtime dream and something that she and her daughter wanted to do together, Gintz said.

2 people smiling on porch
Courtesy / Captain Nickels Inn
Dawn and Cassidy Gintz focused on custom design and reproduction for the 19th century inn’s rehabilitation.

With Cassidy undertaking most of the design work for the rooms, the two and a slew of contractors have spent the last three winters renovating. 

“The house had been neglected for a long time. It was not in the best shape,” she said. “Every year we do a huge project.”

They run the inn year-round, but close when a renovation project is underway.

The inn, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1874 by Capt. A.V. Nickels as a gift to his bride, Elizabeth.

The home sits on 3 acres on Penobscot Bay and includes two sitting rooms, a library, dining room, solarium with views of the sea, and large decks. The rooms are individually designed with period antiques. The rooms have names like Port of Call Dublin and Port of Call Istanbul and feature items specific to those cultures.

There’s a summer cottage with a deck and fire pit, as well as expansive lawns.

Features include original wood floors, ornate trim on the exterior and ballroom that can seat at least 50 guests. 

The Gintzes hired R.H. Lambeth Builders in Stockton Springs as their general contractor, with Kurt Reed overseeing all of the projects. They started out by repairing a number of leaks in the roof, renovating a bathroom and replacing the kitchen and front deck flooring, among other projects. 

Structural issues included a broken truss that had to be jacked up and secured.

They converted an office into a guest room and upgraded all of the bathrooms with fixtures that are modern, yet meant to fit the structure’s classic style.

A big job involved replacing the widow’s walk and a cupola, which included finding an artisan in Maine who could handle the design and installation in copper. The company that made the new copper topper was Roof Systems of Maine in Bangor, and the artisan was David Hazelton.  

person with copper cupola
Courtesy / Bruce Hanson, A.M. Roofing
David Hazelton, with Roof Systems of Maine in Bangor, installed a new copper topper at the 19th-century Captain Nickels Inn.

Last year, they tore the hallway down to studs (including the horsehair plaster) and installed new insulation, drywall and electrical systems in the hall and bedrooms.

New wainscoting was custom-made for the hallway. 

“Cassidy found what would have been period-correct wainscoting and she works with our carpenter and he reproduces it,” Gintz said. “None of it has been prefab.”

The ballroom measures approximately 1,000 square feet and features a tin ceiling. The middle portion of the original tin was in good shape and was retained. The Gintzes found replacement tin for the perimeter that complemented the overall style from Classic Ceilings in Fullerton, Calif. R.H. Lambeth Builders did the installation.

The ballroom had structural issues, however.

“It used to be a barn and, in the 1920s, it was converted into a ballroom,” she said. The walls and ceiling were opened up, which exposed barn remnants such as rings that horses were tied to.

The ballroom received new drywall, panel molding and paint using a color that was custom-mixed for the project and now has the name ballroom blue,” Gintz said.

big room with tables and chairs
Courtesy / Captain Nickels Inn
The paint for the ballroom was custom-mixed for the project and is now called ballroom blue.

The ballroom is marketed for weddings and events, which have included a murder mystery weekend, baby showers and several memorial services. 

The original wood flooring has been refinished and some of the boards were repositioned to replace planks that were beyond repair. Ben Knowlton of Ben Knowlton Construction in Northport is responsible for the wood floor restoration.

Alton Bolstridge, with a Brownville carpentry, cabinetry and millwork company called Uncle Buck's, reproduced interior doors, door trim and windows to replicate the originals.

Bruce Fields with Fields Painting in Winterport handled the painting, as well as wall and ceiling restoration work. 

Tidewater Oil Co. in Belfast helped get the original steam radiators repaired and functional.

Now mother and daughter are focusing on the outside of the building. 

“This winter’s project will be more exterior work,” Gintz said. “We’re not just fixing things. We’re restoring the house.”

The goal is have the exterior completed in the next year or two. That includes installing custom-reproduced trim and replacement clapboards.

Charlie Ulmschneider with Belfast CNC in Belfast has reproduced the exterior trim.

The Gintzes expanded the grounds from 3 to 6 acres when they acquired a neighboring parcel, and they added gardens and sitting areas as well. 

The project is being financed by Camden National Bank.

When she purchased the property the bed-and-breakfast business itself was negligible, said Gintz.

Two days after they bought the inn, they put up a temporary website that was much more user-friendly than the previous website, she said.

“We’re big believers in getting out there and advertising,” she continued. “Ten months after we opened, our real website went live.”

Although 2020 was scary, it likely wasn’t as bad for them as for established owners, she said. They had made a big leap into innkeeping just a short time previously, had a five-year plan in place, and knew it would take a while to get the business off the ground anyway. 

As a result, she said, their success today has come as a pleasant surprise.

“We weren’t expecting to be where we are now,” she said. “We just knew we needed to do better than the first year. And we didn’t have a big mortgage. We had bought a house that needed work.”

Today, the business is helping to pay for the renovations and many guests are returnees three or four times over.

“Every year, we’ve done better,” she said. “I don’t think we’re done growing.”

Sign up for Enews


Order a PDF